Generals find rhythm and win with De’Andre Johnson at QB

Generals find rhythm and win with De’Andre Johnson at QB

By RJ Young
FOX sportswriter

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – On the podium of the Protective Stadium media conference room, New Jersey Generals coach Mike Riley marveled at the stat sheet alongside the quarterback De’Andre Johnson and receiver KaVontae Turpin.

“Look at this,” he told them. “Running, passing, it’s a good balance.”

Yes, Thanos would be proud of Riley and his team.

Right off the bat, Riley and staff saw the style of coverage that New Orleans Breakers defensive coordinator John Tetula liked to run — mostly men’s coverage — and saw they had a little something for it.

He opted to start Johnson at quarterback and, for the first time this season, did not fire him in favor of the more pass-oriented Luis Perez in what had been a two-quarterback offense.

Johnson led the Generals to a 27-17 win – the first victory for a North Division team over a South Division opponent this season. He finished with 255 total yards, completing 14 of 21 pass attempts for 213 yards.

When the match was over and Perez hadn’t played for a moment, Riley admitted he didn’t think that would be the case at the start of the match.

“I hadn’t planned to act like it happened today,” he said. “But I thought early on it was important not to sit there in the pocket against their setters. bullets in the pockets. , and that was it.”

The Generals racked up 401 total yards in what Riley believed was his team’s best performance all season.

“I think so,” Riley said. “I think when you look at it and then you assess the opponent, which is hard to do in this league because all of our games have been close, New Orleans has been impressive. And our guys have prepared well, studied well and respected him and them.”

Johnson scored the first touchdown of the game on an engineered run. His score was set by two catches for 39 yards from former North Dakota State wide receiver Darrius Shepherd, one of which he caught in the back.

Generals defense impresses with two takeaways

Generals defense impresses with two takeaways

The New Jersey Generals defense had two interceptions and forced a turnover on downs against the Breakers. Shalom Luani was responsible for both interceptions.

Three of the USFL’s top six rushers are generals, and they’ve averaged nearly 178 rushing yards in their first four games of the season. They showed that strength in the second quarter with rushes of 17 and 28 yards on the way to a double-digit lead when Johnson scored his second touchdown on a fourth play from the Breakers’ two-yard line.

The Generals ran the ball eight times in that nine-game series. By the time the game ended nearly four hours after kickoff, the Generals were rushing for 181 yards on 38 carries.

TURPIN ARRIVES

Turpin, a former all-around Texas Christian dynamo, has become Johnson’s favored target — and offensive coordinator Steve Smith’s favorite weapon — against an aggressive Breakers front. He finished the game with five catches for 106 yards, two carries for 10 more, plus a punt return for 39 yards.

Turpin likes to be involved in all three phases.

“Since I started playing football,” he said, “I tried to do everything I could to help the team.”

NO RHYTHM FOR SLOTTING

While Breakers offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone missed the game to attend his daughter’s wedding, head coach Larry Fedora called the plays for the first time since 2020. He sure would have liked a better result for his team and its quarterback, however.

“I’m not going to make excuses for anything,” Fedora said. “It’s just what it is. We need to respond better to those situations.”

Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter was limited to just 155 yards on 15 on 36 passes, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He had passed for over 400 in the Breakers’ victory last Sunday, and over 1,000 in his previous four games. Six of his last seven assists against the generals have gone incomplete.

Jordan Ellis, the Breakers’ top rusher, was limited to just 42 yards on 12 carries.

Kyle Sloter’s journey from the NFL to the USFL

Kyle Sloter's journey from the NFL to the USFL

Kyle Sloter has tried out for 26 different NFL teams and talks about what it’s really like inside NFL camps. He takes that knowledge with him to the USFL and the New Orleans Breakers.

The Breakers’ offense is best when moving at breakneck speed, but injury stoppages, a weather delay and a total of 15 penalties by both teams led to an offensive performance that looked more like a car. road lacking gears than the race car it has. been for the past few weeks.

Sloter continued to struggle when a pass he threw was deflected and intercepted by New Jersey safety Shalom Luani in the red zone. It was the Generals’ first takeaway since Week 1. For Sloter, the interception was his fifth turnover in the Breakers’ last six quarters.

The Breakers mounted their first scoring drive in the closing minutes of the first half. Sloter found wide Jay Adams on a third-and-15 from New Jersey 20 for a touchdown with 1:08 left, a TD that Sloter desperately needed. Prior to that, Sloter had completed just seven of 14 pass attempts for 47 yards with an interception.

Inside their own 10-yard line, the Breakers’ defense stiffened in the final minute of the second quarter, but New Orleans was lucky to trail 17-10 at halftime. weather.

Kyle Sloter reunites with Jonathan Adams for a 20-yard TD

Kyle Sloter reunites with Jonathan Adams for a 20-yard TD

New Orleans Breakers QB Kyle Sloter finds WR Jonathan Adams for TD to bring the team closer to the New Jersey Generals as halftime approaches in the USFL.

Johnson had eight of 11 passes for 115 yards and two rushing touchdowns in the first half.

After a pass interference penalty on Generals cornerback DeJuan Neal during the Breakers’ opening possession in the second half, Sloter came to life, finding former Ohio State wide receiver Johnnie Dixon 10 yards out. to clock the score at 17-17 with 10:13 remaining. the period.

As the rain began to fall, the Generals responded with a TD drive, punctuated by Darius “Vito” Victor and his 30-inch thighs (yes, really) rolling into the end zone for his fifth touchdown of the season in the lead. of the league.

Victor led the Generals on the ground with 85 yards on 16 carries.

LIGHTNING AND LUANI

Shortly after, play was interrupted due to lightning in the area for a total of 45 minutes.

On the second play, defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao rocked Sloter with a legal jab to the chest, giving Sloter long enough to bring athletic trainers onto the field. He left the field on his own.

Although the Generals lost three starters on defense to injury in the next practice, the Breakers couldn’t establish the kind of pace that had allowed them to become the No. 1 offense in the league. Sloter then kicked his second pick of the afternoon, through Luani again.

Luani had missed the previous two games through injury and he announced his return with two takeaways. He added two passes defended and six tackles in what was a thrilling return to the backfield of defensive coordinator Cris Dishman.

The Generals had a chance to put in two touchdowns again, but the Breakers defense pulled off a turnover on their own seven-yard line, holding Johnson back with 7:41 left. But the Generals managed to extend their lead to 10 points with a field goal by former Alabama kicker Austin Jones to hold a 27-17 lead with 4:15 to play.

The Breakers turned the ball over on the downs with their next possession, leaving the Generals with the privilege of running out of time with just 3:01 left.

FAKE PUNT FLASH

In the first quarter, a fake punt from the Breakers traveled 43 yards when linebacker Jerod Fernandez caught the snap from his position as a personal protector and ran through the middle of New Jersey’s punt return team, which is separated as if Moses had opened his hands in midfield.

New Orleans Jerod Fernandez converts a fake punt

New Orleans Jerod Fernandez converts a fake punt

The New Orleans Breakers hit a fake punt conversion with a 43-yard run from Jerod Fernandez.

New Orleans kicker Taylor Bertolet smashed the ball 42 yards through the uprights to give the Breakers a 3-0 lead. It was the last time New Orleans held the lead.

Fernandez, a linebacker, finished the game as the Breakers’ leading rusher.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The #1 Rated Show Starring RJ Young.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Youngand subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube. It’s not on a StepMill.


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